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BUCK UP!

19-11-2009

Villa fan Buck Chinn – father of broadcaster Carl – was one of the West Midlands first supporter activists, trying his best to counter the dictatorial tendencies of Doug Ellis. With Buck now fighting a serious illness, Dave Woodhall pays tribute.

Football clubs now see the need for good relations with their supporters. This wasn’t always the case though, which is why fanzines and supporter groups got started. But before then there was the odd attempt to bring fans together, and one of the pioneers in this field was Buck Chinn, best known for his work as chair of the Villa Shareholders Association for many years.

Buck’s recently been diagnosed with a serious illness, and I think it’s only right that he should know in how much respect he held by those of us he’s helped.

Buck first came to prominence as founder of the Aston Villa Democracy Group, formed in February 1982 in the wake of Ron Saunders’ departure from Villa Park. This organisation campaigned for grater supporter involvement and a democratically elected fan on the club’s board – ideas which were still revolutionary decades later.

He then became chair of the Villa Shareholders Association, which thanks to the unique nature of our club’s history was far more representative of ‘ordinary’ fans than similar groups at other clubs. Buck was a regular speaker at the club’s AGM, crossing swords with Doug Ellis on regular occasions. He even stood against Doug for nomination to the board and overwhelmingly won a show of hands, only for the chairman to use his block vote to over-rule popular opinion.

Buck continued to fight for the things ordinary supporters were concerned about – concessions for the unemployed and students, interest-free loans for season tickets and better liaison with far-flung supporters clubs.

This was a time when there were no focus groups or internet messageboards and for most of the time there was no fanzines either. If you had a grievance and were getting nowhere with the club, you went to Buck. He didn’t always get your problems sorted, but you knew he’d do his best for you even if it meant falling foul of the idea that supporters should pay their money at the turnstile and shut up.

No matter how much criticism he received from the press – Andy Gray’s autobiography was a particularly cheap shot – Buck did what he thought was right up until the time of his retirement.

I hope this doesn’t sound too much like an obituary, because as of taking to him last week Buck is still more alive than most of us.

I wanted to place on record my appreciation of what Buck did for me, and wish him a full and speedy recovery. I’m sure a lot of others think exactly the same.

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